AU tries to stop Gambia's mass execution

2012-08-24 20:01
Yahya Jammeh. (AFP)

Yahya Jammeh. (AFP)

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Dakar - The African Union has asked Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh to renounce plans to execute all prisoners on death row, who include many political detainees.

Benin's Foreign Minister Nassirou Bako Arifari was sent by his country's President Thomas Yayi Boni, current African Union chief, to Banjul for talks with the Gambian leader on Wednesday.

"After having learned of the imminent execution of a number of prisoners sentenced to death, President Yayi, who is very concerned, wished that President Yahya Jammeh not carry out such a decision," Arifari told Radio France Internationale late on Thursday.

Arifari held closed-door talks with Jammeh, telling journalists in Banjul he had delivered a message from Yayi and discussed crises in Guinea-Bissau and Mali which have both suffered military coups this year.


In an address to the nation on August 20, marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Jammeh announced that all prisoners sentenced to death will be executed by mid-September.

"By the middle of next month, all the death sentences would have been carried out to the letter; there is no way my government will allow 99% of the population to be held to ransom by criminals," Jammeh said.

Though he did not give the exact figure of those to be executed, an AFP tally puts the figure of those condemned to death since July 2010, including former security chiefs, at 47.

Last year eight military top brass, including the former army and intelligence chiefs and the ex-deputy head of the police force, were sentenced to death for treason.

The last execution in Gambia, a sliver of land wedged into Senegal, took place in 2007. Death sentences are carried out by hanging.

Jammeh, a former military officer who seized power in a 1994 coup, brooks no dissent in a country often blasted by rights bodies for abuses.

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